Section 7 was New Zealand’s first urban TV drama series and followed soon after Pukemanu (which was set in a logging town). Taking its name from the Criminal Justice Act section which placed offenders on probation, it focussed on a Probation Service office and addressed issues of the day including new migrants, ship girls and domestic violence. Expatriate Ewen Solon returned from England to take the lead role in a series very much based on British dramas of the time. More popular with critics than the public, Section 7 was limited to 11 half-hour episodes.
One of NZ TV's first forays into stand-up comedy, this talent quest based show ran for two series (the second as A Bit More after Ten). It was hosted by Jeremy Corbett and his brother Nigel (in his TV debut), with Ian Harcourt (ex-Funny Business) as a resident judge (aided by two celebrities each week). Home viewers also voted, helping propel eventual winner Late Night Mike into the first final. Michele A'Court, Te Radar, Jon Bridges, Dean Butler and Andrew Clay graced its set and later graduated to its stand-up successor, the long running Pulp Comedy.
Christchurch based Paua Productions set out to document the effects of the city’s 4 September earthquake in 2010 but found themselves overtaken by the tragic events of 22 February 22. Their focus is the experiences of everyday people coping with the destruction of large tracts of their city, significant injuries and major loss of life as liquefaction, ruined homes and thousands of aftershocks prolong the initial trauma. A number of the interviewees were followed over a year, as they struggled to come to terms with what had happened and move on.
Over four seasons, Street Legal’s slick Kiwi take on urban crime and law genres racked up a stack of award nominations - including a 2003 NZ TV Award for best drama series. Although initially wary that the Auckland setting might alienate viewers, writer Greg McGee chose a Samoan lawyer (Jay Laga’aia) as his main character, to exploit the show’s inner-city Ponsonby setting (where cafe society bumps into Pacific Island immigrant culture). Other key characters included Silesi’s lawyer ex-girlfriend Joni, and her new partner Kees, an overstressed sergeant.
This was New Zealand's first big historical drama after the controversy over the cost of The Governor almost a decade earlier. Over seven episodes — set between 1895 and 1914 — it followed the life of Dunedin barrister Alf Hanlon, focussing on six of his most important cases. British actor David Gwillim played Hanlon, while Australian Robyn Nevin was cast as convicted baby murderer Minnie Dean in the first and most celebrated episode. A major critical, ratings and awards success, it immediately recouped its budget when the Minnie Dean episode spurred a big international sale.
Over two years, The Candle Wasters – a troupe of young Wellingtonians – attracted 4.5 million YouTube views to their modernised vlog reimaginings of Shakespeare’s plays (Much Ado About Nothing, Love's Labour Lost). In 2015 they won NZ On Air and Kickstarter funding to create a web drama series loosely inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream – set at a teen house party. Each of the 10 episodes focussed on a different character. Produced with Bevin Linkhorn, Bright Summer Night was uploaded in August 2016. It won Best Drama at the 2017 Hollyweb Festival in the United States.
The Cul de Sac is set in a world where the adults have disappeared, and waves of energy destroy anyone caught outdoors. Feisty teen Rose (Greta Gregory) leads a small group of family and friends. Echoing the storytelling style of Lost, the series teases viewers with its gradual reveal of what in hell is going on. Created by Stephen J Campbell (Amazing Extraordinary Friends), the half-hour sci fi adventure ran for three seasons, each with six episodes. The cast included Molly Leishman (Wilde Ride), Peter Feeney as the scientist dad, and (in season one) KJ Apa and Beulah Koale.
A Twist in the Tale was one of a series of kidult shows launched by The Tribe creator Raymond Thompson, after he relocated to New Zealand. The anthology series spins from a storyteller (Star Trek's William Shatner) introducing a story (often fantastical) to a group of children, some of whom appear in the tales. The show featured early appearances by many young Kiwi thespians, including Antonia Prebble, Chelsie Preston Crayford, Dwayne Cameron and Michelle Ang. Although the writing team were British, some of the directors and most of the crew were New Zealanders.
Lucy Lewis (Thomasin McKenzie) just can’t lose — which is a real problem, since she's determined not to be elected school representative. But with principal Ms Palmer (played by McKenzie’s real life mum Miranda Harcourt) determined to ruin student life at the school, Lucy's position becomes a way to keep Ms Palmer's power in check. The second season of this web series sees the school overrun by Instagram, and the cyberbullying that can come with it. McKenzie later co-starred in American feature Leave No Trace. Director Paul Yates would help launch Wellington Paranormal.
In 2005 director Stuart McKenzie brought a camera crew into the studios and rehearsal spaces of Toi Whakaari, New Zealand's top drama school, to follow the progress of its first-year acting students. The class included future names like Dan Musgrove and Sophie Hambleton (Westside) and Matt Whelan (Go Girls). Tough Act was nominated for Best Reality Show at the 2007 Qantas Television Awards and the 2007 NZ Screen Awards. The concept was custom-made for reality TV: tough auditions to find 22 diverse young people, who chased the same dream and faced a multitude of challenges.